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Dave MacKenzie’s letter angers Unifor exec, who says, ‘He should step up and do something’

By Hank Daniszewski, Norman De Bono, The London Free Press

Unifor workers on strike at Cami in Ingersoll cast shadows on a warm day. (MIKE HENSEN, The London Free Press)

Unifor workers on strike at Cami in Ingersoll cast shadows on a warm day. (MIKE HENSEN, The London Free Press)

Oxford Conservative MP Dave MacKenzie is feeling heat from Cami workers for what strikers are calling a lack of support.

Unifor Local 88, representing 2,800 striking workers at the Ingersoll auto manufacturer, reached out to MacKenzie asking for assistance as they fight GM Canada for a new collective agreement.

He answered with a neutral letter, angering union officials.

“This matter is a legal strike between the company and their union. Therefore, given the sensitivity of the matter, I am unable to participate or become involved at this time,” he wrote.

MacKenzie could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Dan Borthwick, Unifor Local 88 president, took time from renewed negotiations between the union and GM Canada to blast MacKenzie for failing to help those fighting for job security.

“We would like to see politicians involved. Part of the reason we are in this mess is the free trade agreement allows for corporate greed and exploitation of workers,” Borthwick said.

The 2,800 workers walked off the job Sept. 17, fighting for greater job security language in their contract talks with GM Canada.

“He is an MP for the people of Oxford, not the corporation. He should step up and do something for the people of Oxford,” Borthwick said of MacKenzie.

The union wants contract language giving the Ingersoll Cami plant priority status in assembling the Equinox, so that more are assembled at Cami than in Mexico.

It became an issue after GM moved production of the Terrain vehicle from Cami to Mexico in July, cutting more than 400 jobs.

In addition GM has started small volume production of the Equinox at two plants in Mexico, raising the alarm for Cami workers.

“We have seen a flood of manufacturing jobs leave this province. As far as I am concerned free trade has not been good for the auto sector,” Borthwick said.

Several area MPs and MPPs have attended the picket line, from Windsor to London, including Irene Mathyssen, NDP MP for London-Fanshawe, Teresa Armstrong, NDP MPP for London-Fanshawe and Peggy Sattler, NDP MPP for London West, Borthwick said.

Ernie Hardeman, Progressive Conservative Oxford MPP, also was on the picket line this weekend.

“They brought in this trade agreement. They would have a tough time defending it,” Borthwick said of the Conservatives. “Mulroney (former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney) was the first to sign the free trade agreement (between Canada and the U.S.) and five years later we had NAFTA.”

Mackenzie has represented the Oxford riding since 2004.

GM Canada and Unifor Local 88 resumed contract talks Wednesday after the union tabled an offer Tuesday.